When it comes to social media and B2B, one of the most important things you can do is listen.  Actually, I think this concept applies to a lot of different areas of life!  We can learn so much, and gain invaluable trust when we truly listen to what our customers are saying. 

Let’s start with the fundamentals.  No matter whether you are in marketing or sales, understanding what your customer is interested in, what their pains and
challenges are, and how they like to consume information is critical to engaging your audience.  So how do you get inside their head?  In the past, many
organizations have conducted surveys, or held customer advisory council meetings, or mainly tried to call or visit a potential customer.  Today, we have an incredible tool at our disposal called Social Media. 

I’m sure you’ve heard and seen all of the staggering statistics around the use of social media in business, so I won’t go into those details.  However, today I’d like to illustrate how one of the most valuable aspects of social media often gets ignored, and that is social listening. 

“Social listening” is the act of following, reading, understanding, and gaining valuable insight from, your target’s online or social presence.  Social listening is one of the first steps in a social selling strategy.  Understanding your customers helps you to engage them early in the buying cycle, and have a greater chance of being part of the close of the sale. 

Social listening can be done through many sources.  Today I am going to focus on the two most common sources, Twitter and LinkedIn.  By reading something as static as their LinkedIn profile or following something as dynamic as their Twitter feed, it is possible to gain valuable information from
these sources.

 

Why is this information important though?  What could you possibly gain from following someone’s Twitter feed?  Don’t people usually just tweet sports scores or celebrity stunts?  While you might think nothing could be gained from following those kinds of posts, there is actually lots to be learned about
a person with that kind of information. 

By following a Twitter feed, you can learn that someone is a sports lover or wine connoisseur, if they follow current events, or if they are into travelling.  All of this information can be very valuable when you start building a relationship.  This knowledge could help you to initiate a Twitter conversation which could open you to a LinkedIn connection request, and potentially a sale.  I know of a real-life example where a target contact tweeted a lot about loving wine, and
trying out new wine bars in her city.  The rep did a little digging and research and found a new wine bar that she hadn’t yet tried.  He tweeted to her about this new wine bar, and through a few different conversations, that tweet turned into a meeting and a 350K deal.  Listening is very important!

While reviewing a profile posted on LinkedIn, LinkedIn actually helps you sift through the information that you are reading.   By providing you with points of commonality with a potential client or colleague it might be discovered that you both attended the same school, or worked at the same company in the past.  One of my favorites is being members of the same LinkedIn “group”.  I find groups the most valuable because this type of information is dynamic, based in the present, instead of the past.  If you are part of the same group on LinkedIn, you can really target your interaction within this group to gain an in-depth understanding of the topics that your target contact is interested in and what their pains and challenges are.

Through following both a contact’s Twitter feed, and reviewing their LinkedIn profile – especially their status updates, you can also get an understanding of how they like to consume information.  Do they read (and share) blogs, or do they share articles from trusted business publications?  This kind of information is valuable because it will help you to target your own sharing.  Will you source news and industry articles or will you research and share interesting, current blogs, or perhaps write your own?  The more you know about your target, the better you will be able to share information that will be relevant, educational
and interesting for them.  That is what gets their attention, and begins to build that relationship before ever having reached out to them directly.  When you
have built a relationship without reaching out, you have a much better chance of actually connecting with them when you do reach out.  Going back to my wine bar example, because the rep had built a relationship with the target contact before reaching out directly (through phone or email) he was successful when he actually did reach out.

Relationships are built on trust, and you build trust with your contacts when you truly listen to what they are saying about themselves and their situations.  How many of you have gone into a customer meeting and tried to pitch your product, solution or service without really having an understanding of the customer’s business needs?  I’m going to bet it didn’t go very well.  Customers respond incredibly well when you can go into a meeting armed with information about their business needs, and tailor your message directly for them.  By using this amazing tool of social media, you have an even better chance of tailoring your message. 

All in all, social media is a very powerful tool and can be utilized in many ways.  Don’t forget to listen though, as it can be the most valuable aspect of your social selling strategy.

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